Exodus 12 - God Institutes Passover
A. Passover instructions.
1. (1-6) Each household should take a lamb.
a. The coming deliverance from Egypt is such a significant act that God tells the children of Israel to remake their calendar - the new year will now start with the month of their redemption from Egypt.
b. On the tenth of this first month, each family - or household - is to take a lamb, and the lamb is to live with the family for the four days until Passover.
i. In this way, the lamb was to be part of the family - when it was sacrificed on the fourteenth, it would be cherished, and mourned; God wanted the sacrifice of something precious.
ii. The rabbis later determined that there should be at least ten people for each Passover lamb, and not more than twenty.
c. The lamb was also to be without blemish; this sacrifice unto the Lord had to be as perfect as a lamb could be.
d. A lamb from the sheep or from the goats may sound confusing, but the Hebrew word for lamb can refer to either a young sheep or a young goat.
i. "The Hebrew seh is quite a neutral word and should be translated 'head of (small) stock', applying equally to sheep and goats of any age. The Hebrews, like the Chinese, seem to have regarded any distinction between sheep and goats as a minor subdivision. Probably because of this, to 'separate the sheep from the goats' is proverbial of God's discernment in New Testament times (Matthew 25:32)." (Cole)
2. (7-11) Instructions for eating the Passover.
a. Before the Passover lamb could be eaten, its blood had to be applied to the doorway of the home; and the top, and upon each side the blood was applied. The only part of this sacrifice given to God was the blood; the rest was eaten by each family or discarded.
i. This blood would drip down, and form a figure of a cross in the doorway.
b. Then, the lamb could be eaten - but only if it had been roasted, with the lamb itself coming into contact with the fire, and with bitter herbs accompanying the meal.
i. As our Passover sacrifice, Jesus had to come into direct contact with the "fire" of the Father's judgment on our behalf, and the bitterness of the cross is reflected in the bitter herbs.
c. The Passover lamb had to be eaten completely; a family had to totally consume the sacrifice.
d. The Passover lamb had to be eaten in faith, trusting that the deliverance promised to Israel was present, and that they would walk in that deliverance immediately.
i. Faith was essential to the keeping of Passover: By faith he [Moses] kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. (Hebrews 11:28)
3. (12-13) The protection of the blood.
a. For Israel to be spared the judgment on the firstborn, they had to apply to blood just as God said they should; the blood of the lamb was essential to what God required.
i. If an Israelite home didn't believe in the power of the blood of the lamb, they could sacrifice the lamb and eat of it, but they would still be visited by judgment.
ii. If an Egyptian home did believe in the power of the blood of the lamb, and they made a proper Passover sacrifice, they would be spared the judgment.
iii. Additionally, an intellectual agreement with what God had said about the blood was not enough; they actually had to do what God said should be done with the blood.
b. The judgment on the firstborn was a powerful act of God, because the firstborn was always thought to be favored and privileged before God - if God judges the firstborn, then what of the rest of us?
4. (14-20) The institution of Passover and Unleavened Bread as feasts.
a. Passover began on the tenth; on the 14th they eat the Passover, and is the first day of unleavened bread; then for the next seven days, they would eat only unleavened bread.
b. For the first Passover, the unleavened bread was a practical necessity; they left Egypt in such a hurry there was no time to allow for the dough to rise.
c. Leaven was also a picture of sin and corruption, because of the way a little leaven would influence a whole lump of dough, and also because of the way leaven would "puff up" the lump - even as pride and sin makes us "puffed up."
i. Significantly, God called them to walk "unleavened" after their initial deliverance from Egypt; symbolically, they were being called to a pure walk with the Lord.
ii. Some suggest there was also a health aspect in getting rid of all the leaven; that since they used a piece of dough from the previous batch to make the bread for that day, and did so repeatedly, that harmful bacteria could take hold in the dough - so it was good to remove all leaven and start all over at least once a year.
B. Moses leads the people in the observance of Passover.
1. (21-23) Moses tells the elders to do as God said.
a. The elders were expected to lead the way; Moses instructs them to observe the Passover, knowing the rest of the nation will follow.
b. They are instructed to use a bunch of hyssop to apply the blood to the door posts and lintel; hyssop was often used to apply blood for the cleansing of sin.
i. The ceremony for the cleansing of a leper used hyssop to apply blood (Leviticus 14:6) hyssop was used for to make the ashes of a red heifer for the water of purification (Numbers 19:6) and use the hyssop to apply the purification water (Numbers 19:18).
ii. Hyssop was even connected with Jesus' great sacrifice for sin; John 19:29 points out when Jesus was offered sour wine to drink on the cross, the sponge soaked with it was put on a bunch of hyssop.
iii. This is why David, in his great Psalm of repentance, says purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean - hyssop was always connected with purification through sacrifice.
c. Again, the Lord was looking for blood (when He sees the blood . . . the Lord will pass over); this was the basis for sparing people from judgment.
i. Salvation wasn't accomplished with a prayer or a fasting or a good work; it was accomplished by a life given on behalf of others.
2. (24-27a) Passover as an enduring ordinance.
a. The deliverance of Passover Israel would shortly experience was not only for them, but for their children, and all generations to follow. Passover was the greatest work of redemption performed on the Old Testament side of the cross.
b. In the same way, Jesus, in giving the "new" Passover, said that His work on the cross was not only for that generation, but should be remembered and applied to all generations (Luke 22:14-20).
c. In Passover, there was a two-fold work: He struck the Egyptians (an enemy was defeated) and God delivered our households (God's people were set free and given a new identity, with new promises, a new walk, a new life all together).
3. (27b-28) The obedience of the people.
a. In many ways, these are the most important words; as great as God's deliverance was, it would be denied the people unless they obeyed. How many Israelites took the judgment of the firstborn because they did not believe and obey? How many Egyptians were spared judgment because they did believe and obey?
b. Their obedience was connected with worship: So the people bowed their heads and worshipped. Then the children of Israel went away and did so.
i. Worship can help with our obedience because it gets things in the right place between us and God - He is the Creator, and we are creatures, and we humbly worship Him.
C. The final plague: the death of Egypt's firstborn.
1. (29-30) God slays the firstborn of Egypt.
a. Moses had been told Pharaoh would not let them go until he was forced to by God's mighty works (Exodus 3:19-20), and that this work would somehow touch the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 4:21-23); now, the situation is ending just as God said it would.
b. This plague was directed against two significant gods: Osiris, the Egyptian god thought to be the giver of life, and against the supposed deity of Pharaoh himself, because his own household was touched (the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne).
i. An inscription was found in a shrine connected with the great Sphinx which recorded a solemn promise from the Egyptian gods that Thutmose IV would succeed his father, who was Amenhotep II - the pharaoh of the Exodus. Why would there need to be a special promise from the gods that something so natural would happen - the eldest son take his father's place as Pharaoh? Undoubtedly, because Thutmose IV was not his father's firstborn son - that one had been struck dead at the first Passover. Therefore, they believed that the second born son needed special protection from the gods, and the inscription seeks to provide that.
ii. In dealing with Pharaoh, God first had to inform his mind; then He had to break his will. Pharaoh's problem wasn't that there was insufficient intellectual evidence; his heart had to be broken and made soft towards God.
iii. Now Pharaoh knows who the Lord God is, after asking the question when he and Moses first met (Exodus 5:2); he knows that the Lord God is greater than all the Egyptian gods, and greater than Pharaoh himself - who was thought to be a god.
c. Egypt and Pharaoh would not give God His firstborn - Israel (Exodus 4:22-23); so God will take the firstborn of Egypt.
2. (31-36) The response of Pharaoh and the Egyptians.
a. Pharaoh isn't "letting" Israel leave; now, he commands them! This is just what the Lord told Moses would happen: When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out of here altogether (Exodus 11:1).
b. Bless me also shows that now, Pharaoh knows who the Lord is -although he has only come to this knowledge through being broken.
c. The Egyptian people agreed also, to the extent that they essentially paid the Israelites to leave - therefore, the children of Israel left in a hurry, so quickly there was no time to let the bread rise, so they had to eat unleavened bread, as the Lord had commanded.
i. We can imagine that some of the Israelites did not follow God's instruction to get all the leaven out; instead, they had to do what God had told them to do because God arranged the circumstances so that they couldn't use leaven.
ii. In the same way, sometimes God arranges circumstances to where obedience is simply made necessary - even if we didn't choose it. For example, God may want a man to give up friends that bring a bad influence; and the friends leave him first!
C. Israel leaves Egypt.
1. (37-39) The children of Israel go out of Egypt.
a. Assembling together at Succoth, about 600,000 men (besides children of women) makes for a total population of perhaps two million that left Egypt for the Promised Land.
b. A mixed multitude went up with them; not all of the 600,000 were Israelites - many Egyptians (and perhaps other foreigners) went with them, because the God of Israel has shown Himself more powerful that the gods of the Egyptians.
c. Again, God made obedience a necessity in the case of the unleavened bread.
2. (40-42) Passover as a solemn observance.
a. God intended this event to be as a memorial of His redemptive work for Israel; in this sense, this is "Calvary" of the Old Testament.
b. The phrase out of Egypt is repeated 56 times in the Bible after this point; God always wanted them to remember His deliverance of Israel from Egypt.
3. (43-49) Regulations for Passover.
a. To share in the Passover, one had to make themselves part of the people of Israel, receiving the covenant of circumcision and taking Passover were all part of the same package.
b. Passover was to be commemorated on a family level; it was to be celebrated by each household.
c. None of the bones of the Passover lamb were to be broken; even as none of Jesus' bones were broken (Psalm 22:17, John 19:31-36).
d. All who were part of Israel had to commemorate the Passover redemption.
e. Of course, Passover means much to us as Christians: Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
5. (50-51) Departure from Egypt: the Exodus begins.
a. When Israel left Egypt, it was a nation born in a day. It was as if the 430 years were the time in gestation, when the baby grew large; and the plagues were the labor pains; now nation was being born.